The initiators of an appeal to the Georgian President to grant pardon to the country’s former President Mikheil Saakashvili are raising the alarm: Saakashvili may soon die. He has recently lost 56 kg and his body is paralysed by “excruciating pain”.
“We demand that Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili pardon former President Mikheil Saakashvili due to his poor health and his contribution to Georgia’s sovereignty,” is the key sentence of the appeal, which is signed by a succession of Polish politicians, human rights defenders, lawyers and intellectuals.
Mikheil Saakashvili was president of Georgia from 2004 to ’07 and 2008 to ’13. In the 2013 parliamentary elections, his party lost and he left Georgia a year later. He lived in the USA and Europe before going to Ukraine to help the new government with reforms. In 2015, he received Ukrainian citizenship from President Petro Poroshenko and was appointed head of the state administration of the Odesa region. Soon Saakashvili began accusing the Ukrainian authorities of holding back reforms and covering for corruptionists. There was a conflict between him and Poroshenko, after which the Ukrainian president revoked Saakashvili’s citizenship.
In 2018, he was sentenced by a Georgian court to three years in prison for the acquittal of Interior Ministry officers accused of murder and to six years for the case of the beating of an MP. He was also accused of embezzlement and use of force against protesters in 2007. Saakashvili considers the charges to be politically motivated.
He regained his Ukrainian citizenship in 2019, when Volodymyr Zelensky became the country’s president. He returned to Ukraine, where he helped Zelensky’s team with reforms. Two years later, in 2021, upon his return to Georgia, he was arrested. Officially, the basis for his detention was the sentences that were handed down in 2018 in the cases brought against him. Mikheil Saakashvili continued to claim that all charges against him were politically motivated.
Zelensky appeals for treatment for Mikheil Saakashvili
Ukraine is demanding the release and dropping of charges against the politician. In June this year, President Zelensky intervened in his case. He did so in response to video recordings of a court session in Georgia, during which Mikheil Saakashvili was questioned online. In the video recordings, he looked extremely exhausted and emaciated.
Zelensky said at the time that Kyiv had offered Tbilisi many options to resolve the situation, including in cooperation with other states. “Russia is now killing Ukrainian citizen Mikheil Saakashvili using the hands of the Georgian authorities,” he declared.
His brother, David Saakashvili, also spoke about the former Georgian president’s poor health. In an interview with the Ukrainian editorial board Strana.Ua, he said, “This is the result of how he has been treated for many months. It is possible that Mikheil was the victim of an attempted poisoning. The situation is really not good, his weight is dropping drastically, he might die.”
Case violates human dignity
The initiators of the appeal – Action Democracy, the Open Dialogue Foundation and former President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his wife Jolanta – are currently in contact with the lawyer of the former Georgian president. The information provided by the lawyer is striking. Saakashvili may soon die. He has recently lost 56 kg and his body is paralysed by “excruciating pain”.
“The latest photos of the former president speak volumes about his condition. The medical care of the former Georgian president is raising serious questions in the international community and is a matter that violates human dignity,” reads the appeal to Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili. To date, the letter has been signed by Prof. Marek Belka, Robert Biedroń, Michał Boni, Agnieszka Holland, Ewa Kopacz, Hanna Machińska, Adam Michnik, Janina Ochojska, Radosław Sikorski, Krzysztof Śmiszek, Ewa Wrzosek, and others.
“We created this appeal at the request of one of our volunteers from Ukraine. He conveyed to us that the Ukrainian authorities, despite numerous attempts, have been unable to influence Georgia to release their citizen and politician Mikheil Saakashvili. Even President Zelensky’s June appeal went unanswered. As the Ukrainian president noted, the politician is on the verge of exhaustion. We contacted his lawyer, who confirmed that the former Georgian president is facing death behind bars. So we decided to write an open letter together with Action Democracy on behalf of Polish civil society, and Mr and Mrs Aleksander and Jolanta Kwasniewski agreed to initiate the collection of signatures,” says Marcin Mycielski from the Open Dialogue Foundation about the circumstances of the letter’s creation. He hopes that such pressure will influence the Georgian authorities.
“In our view, they [Georgian authorities] are in favour of Putin at a most sensitive time, which is Russia’s war with Ukraine. It is hard to see in any other light the detention behind bars of a dying man who, as president of Georgia, was responsible for standing up to Russia when it invaded his country in 2008. It is fair to say that, in his role, he was a prototype for Zelensky and, in light of his merits, we simply cannot leave him on there alone. We encourage Poles to sign the appeal,” says Mycielski.
Organisations and public figures wishing to join the signatories are asked to contact [email protected].